“The Pernicious Pioneer does not command the capability of entering high speeds under such duress. It is a vessel meant to be extremely efficient at travel in between words and at navigating strong gravitational wells, but it is not good at pin-point maneuverability or quick accelerations, such as those used in modern methods of space combat.” PeeNutz turned to the captain, bearing a large flask of dark red liquid. “Captain, please drink this and return to your quarters.”
The captain took the drink, uncorked it, and was only satisfied after he had downed several gulps.
Isaac Carson gritted his teeth. “What do you recommend then, PeeNutz? We’re clearly going to die if we don’t escape!”
“That remains to be seen, helmsmen. Please allow me to utilize control of the ship.”
Isaac looked toward the captain, who was stumbling backwards. A waft of intense alcohol struck his nose with a jolt, and he grimaced as he turned back to stare at the human-like mechanoid. “Why not.” He accepted the prompt at the pilot console and allowed PeeNutz access to the flight controls.
The ship turned around to face the Strong Steel military vessel. They were closing range quickly, and PeeNutz forced the ship to head straight toward it.
“What the hell are you doing?!” yelled Isaac. “You’re taking us straight toward them. Captain, captain! Do you see this? Your robot is a suicidal box of bolts! He’s going to get us all killed! Captain?!”
The captain had fallen in a heap by the front of the bridge, smiling and giggling and hiccuping. He was singing an old pirate’s song, frenetically:
“It’s gonna’ be a goodly kind of exploration wide,
To see the dinging pretty bells of moon’s propitious hide.
That’s got’ta be a wicked man who stole the treasure flat,
For when I snuck into the crypt, I found it bloomin’ trapped!”
Heey Hooo! Oooo…”
“Helmsmen Carson, while I remain an entity comprised entirely of artificial intelligence, I do retain a sense of indignity for being called a ‘suicidal box of bolts.’ There are far more anatomically complicated components to my state-of-the-art design than mere bolts. In veracity, they are barely the beginning of me.”
“What the hell are you doing, then? Are you trying to get us killed?”
“Never judge a bolt by its cover. I am merely taking the most logical course of action.”
“And what action is that?!”
“In approximately three seconds, you will see.”
A fist pounded on the automatic retracting double doors yielding entrance to the command bridge, which opened as if in response to the fist rather than to a proximity of movement. Shorty and two of his men, still donning their space suits minus the helmet, stormed onto the bridge, heading straight for the captain.
The ship shook once more, but this time, it was enough to send the men hurdling to the ceiling, and then back down onto the hard metal floor. Fortunately, Shorty wasn’t about to lose his balance again. The only thing he was losing was his patience, and his stifled-grimace.
“Goddammit,” said the captain. “They’ve rammed us, their pods have landed, and now they’re boarding! They’re boarding!”
“Mister Shorty. Thank Perun you have arrived.” PeeNutz caught the captain in midair, and held his squalling mass toward Shorty.
“Yer!” cried out Shorty. “Hey, yer ugly captain! Gather a hold of yerself, yer space dog! Get a hold of yerself, I say!”
“We’re doomed, we’re all doomed!”
“That is yet to be discovered,” started PeeNutz, but the old miner raised a knobbed fist and ran it across the captain’s cheek.
Captain Kenley’s head was knocked backward into the metal, unyielding forehead of PeeNutz’s unperturbed yet human-like bronze face, as if a bouncy ball were slammed against a cinder block. Blood began to trickle down. “Bloody bollocks—man, where’s the armory? So help me, if yer don’t tell me right now, I’ll—“
“We’ll never win, Shorty! We’ll never make it—“
Shorty picked up the captain one-handedly out of PeeNut’s grasp and pinned him three feet off the floor against the wall display with a loud metallic smack. “You find me the armory, Captain, whether yer want to or not! I’ll be a bloomin’ Xenos if I stay ‘ere and have me throat slit like a pig!”
With a shaking arm, the captain started to bring the red bottle of aged spice brandy to his lips, but Shorty nabbed it and drank it down in two tremendous, sucking gulps, tossing the bottle clanging against the floor and clearing his throat. His unhappiness was seething though widened eyes and spittle-ridden exhales.
He raised his fist again to strike, but the captain raised hands to protect himself. The captain grasped hold of his sanity for just a couple of moments, long enough to open the system display on his portable holo-pad and authorize Shorty free access to all the ship’s layout documents. PeeNutz immediately handed Shorty an encrypted holo-vid display, and he snatched the device greedily, dropping the captain unceremoniously onto the floor and diverting all his attention to the layout data.
It was a map of the entire vessel, from bow to aft, with every corridor and closet marked out clearly. It also showed the location of Strong Steel’s pressure-sealing pods which had infiltrated the hull and whose crews, as little red dots, were now aimlessly making their way through the vessel.
He eyed it all closely, studying the movements of the enemy and the layouts of the upper decks they were scouring. He especially noted the location of the armory.
How convenient, he thought.
“Bloody—they’re commin’ in through the observation deck and they’re wastin’ no time. Cazim, Kerim, yer go lay the traps in the top decks here and here, you see? And for heaven’s sake, don’t let ‘em see yer, then go hide in the engine room and wait for the signal.
“Isaac, be a good ol’ lad, take the Captain and get rid o’ these all these lights, on the double! I want this vessel darker than a cold night in hell—I don’t care if yer got’ ta tear a damn hole in the side of a bulkhead to do it.
“PeeNutz, have the rest o’ the men meet me in the galley, and put a bug in their arse if they give you any lip.”
“Wh—where’re you going?” asked the captain. “What are you planning?” The large cut now dripped blood down his face plentifully, and his dazed eyes and slurred speech drew out a smile from the old miner, who returned words with a witty and bright smile.
“Me? Why, I’m off to the galley to have me a round o’ spice. Gonna’ be real bored and brassed if I don’t.”
As everyone left to fulfill their orders, PeeNutz stopped Isaac Carton as he headed toward the captain’s crumpled heap. “I beg your pardon, helmsmen,” said the mechanoid, “but you had better take this.”
Isaac pocketed a newly brandished bottle of spice brandy; he knew it was for the captain, but he thought for sure that he would take down half of its contents before they had made it to the breaker room only twenty meters away.